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Truckers with sleep apnea must comply with treatment

Many people suffer from sleep apnea in the United States. If those sufferers happen to be truck drivers who are non-compliant with their treatment, they can pose a significant public safety hazard.

Results from the most comprehensive sleep apnea and collision risk study of commercial drivers were recently published in "Sleep," a journal dedicated to the subject. Research focused on 1,613 truckers diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. There were the same number of control drivers matched by length of employment and job experience with the trucking company.

The truckers with sleep apnea were prescribed therapy consisting of positive airway pressure; they received a self-adjusting machine to use on the road in the truck's sleeping berth as well as at home. Data was then obtained from the internal memory chip of the machine.

When truckers failed to use their machines, those with sleep apnea had five times higher rates of preventable, serious wrecks than their control counterparts. Those truckers who remained in partial or total compliance were statistically comparable to the control drivers.

The main author of the study, who, in addition to being the primary investigator for the University of Minnesota's at Morris Truckers & Turnover Project, is also a professor of management and economics, said, "The results . . . support the establishment of obstructive sleep apnea screening standards for all drivers through the commercial driver's medical exam."

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that obstructive sleep apnea is common and more than 25 million adults in America share the diagnosis. One major warning sign is extreme sleepiness during the daytime, which can result in drowsy driving.

If you were injured in an accident with a sleep-deprived trucker, you may be able to recover a financial settlement or judgment.

Source: Science Codex, "Crash risk soars among truck drivers who fail to adhere to sleep apnea treatment," March 21, 2016

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